Developing technologies to make car operation more and more comfortable for the driver has been a focus for auto manufacturers for years. Now though, the scenario is inclining more towards putting the driver in the passenger seat. Self driving cars used to be a concept only seen in sci-fi films and was an idea many thought was far fetched, even till a few years back. However, it is very much a reality now and auto companies have created concepts and even production ready variants that require minimal or no contribution from the driver. The evolution of autonomous cars can be traced back to when the automatic gearbox nullified the need for the driver to shift gears himself, then came along the automatic parking, then there was the automatic braking, which can automatically apply brakes if the system senses an impending accident.
The latest attempt to create autonomous vehicles is the collaboration between Bosch and Daimler. The two companies have entered into a development agreement to bring fully automated and driverless driving to urban roads by the beginning of the next decade. The two brands expect the technology to boost, among other things, the attraction of ride sharing.
The idea behind this project is that the car should come to the person. Within a specified area of town, customers will be able to order an automated shared car via their smartphone. The vehicle will then make its way autonomously to the user and the onward journey can commence.
The road to the driverless era is, however, rockier than thought. Legal concerns is one of them. For example, California last year banned Uber from testing self driving cars in San Francisco. Also, a lobbying group for taxi and limo drivers in upstate New York asked the state to ban self-driving cars for at least 50 years, arguing that 13,000 drivers would lose their jobs if driverless cars were introduced.
Then there is the question of legal responsibility. If a self-driving car crashes, who is to be held responsible? Joshua Brown became the first person to die in an autonomous car accident in May, 2016. He was driving a Tesla Model S. The accident in Florida gave rise to questions over how the autopilot system works. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigators said that the car had no defects in the safety system and Tesla was let off from all charges. However, the car involved had a semi-autonomous system. The question still remains. If fully self-driving cars get into a fatal accident, who will be held responsible.
Speaking of autonomous cars in the Indian scenario brings many other factors need to be considered. India has some of the most dangerous roads in the world, in terms of traffic fatalities. In a country where traffic rules are yet to be taken seriously, self-driving cars are further away than they are in other developed parts of the world.